Sarasota police seek information in 1985 cold case of Denise Marie Stafford

Sarasota County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA)—Police are seeking the public’s help in solving the 35-year-old cold case of a mother found dead in Sarasota.

The Sarasota Police Department on Wednesday asked for information about the unsolved killing of Denise Marie Stafford, 28.

Police said Stafford’s body was found on Oct. 13, 1985 at her home in the 300 block of Tarpon Avenue. Investigators suspect Stafford was at home alone with her baby at the time of the killing, and died sometime between 11 p.m. on Oct. 12 and 3:10 a.m. on Oct. 13. There were no signs of forced entry to the home.

Police said Stafford and her husband were known to frequent a number of establishments where they once worked, including the now defunct “Playground Lounge” and the “Sawmill Restaurant.”

Police believe new information and DNA technology could benefit the case. They want to bring the family the justice they’ve been waiting for.

“All these people 35 years later are still torn by this horrific crime. They still want to some closure in fact, a typical question law-enforcement ask people is ‘what do you think should happen to someone that is responsible for this?’ Mr. Stafford’s immediate response was, ‘we still have the death penalty don’t we?’ So 35 years later, he still feels that strong that justice needs to be served,” said Sarasota PD civilian investigator Jeff Birdwell.

Those with information are being asked to call Detective Jeff Birdwell at 941-263-6028 or Crime Stoppers at 941-366-TIPS.

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